The Rummage

Tag: England

. issue XX : vii .

. artist : dead sea apes & black tempest .
. album : the sun behind the sun .
. year : 2012 .
. label : cardinal fuzz .
. grade : a .

DSA_BT

On the surface (to the casual ear) there might not seem to be a whole lot in common between Dead Sea Apes and the sonic alchemist known as Black Tempest. The former traffics in rolling, and often boiling, maximum sized sonic tectonics, while the latter conjures up electro-kosmische wonders that lay out flight paths as much as they elevate you onto them. Though both cover huge tracts of land both here and out there with a beguiling agility despite the size of their crafts, they don’t deal in surfaces only. They may create them, but they journey far above them and often through them, glowing with a slow-burning cosmic light that blankets like the sun or provides the safe-harbor lure of a lone flame. Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest don’t just create deep music. They operate along the other axes as nimbly as a spider, swirling around them, coaxing them into shapes far beyond the linear. Sounds and tangents turn in on themselves, gathering and jettisoning, until The Sun Behind The Sun becomes a gloriously constantly weaving knot, a sonic array with bodies that somehow orbit themselves.

Many collaborations sound good on paper, the lure of a pairing too much to pass up when talking about two bodies that generate as much space and gravity as Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest. And that’s as far as they get; the sum far less than the parts. Here’s one that effectively generates a third entity to stand toe to toe with its parents. There’s not one point on The Sun Behind The Sun where either outfit feels like they are selling the project short by not being true to their mission. This isn’t Dead Sea Tempest. Both give the other wide berth to ply their trade and paint with with big strokes that turn soft edges into the outline of that unseen third party, the third stone behind the other sun…. Nothing feels grafted onto another or bolted in place; it’s a 100% natural weave. Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest get down to the core of their individual work, finding the plasticity so they can coil around each other like a double-helix. Getting together to push their envelopes, they’ve turned the spotlight on the DNA that makes them both what they are. Consequently, that’s given birth to something that’s both bigger than both of them in some ways, while fitting seamlessly into their own continua.

The Sun Behind The Sun’s common ground between Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest isn’t a limp superficial overlap of both. This is new ground, new territory for both, not limited by redundant points of interest and intersections. Its three cuts lay out orbits that ripple and pulse around—as well as in— each other as much as they do the sun of your choice. Both governing bodies become indistinguishable, the gears not so much meshing as melding into each other for a giant self-perpetuating solar fire. Considering the inherent pull and force of each respective gravity well, this is a match made in heaven that actually delivers on the promise, leaving Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest fully redeemed, and their passengers fully satisfied. Highly recommended for new and old sun worshippers alike.

by Mr. Atavist

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. issue XVII : ii .

. artist : the fierce & the dead .
. album : spooky action .
. year : 2013 .
. label : bad elephant .
. grade : b plus .

spookyaction

The Fierce & The Dead (possibly splitting time between London and Morecambe) return this November with their second full length, Spooky Action. If words like fierce, dead, and spooky lead you to believe that you’re in for some atrocious, postured behemoth more cadaverous than meaty, you’re in for surprise. What’s really spooky is how The Fierce & The Dead seemingly keep refining their sound, getting leaner and meaner in some aspects, yet also increasingly expansive. Nothing here gets close to the physical sweep of their debut outing, but they cover as much familiar and unfamiliar ground as they ever have, even continuing that once nascent saga with “Part 4.” The Fierce & The Dead almost reach contradiction status with a brighter, more open production that makes them crystalline in the gentlest of moments and more jagged and frayed when the furnace is fully stoked. Spooky Action’s closing statement, “The Chief,” is a prime example in full length, though you’ll hear that all through the album. It has a quality not dissimilar to Crimson, a band that The Fierce & The Dead nod to not only in construct, but in purpose. If the above word gave you pause of any kind, then ‘prog’ may do even more damage. The Fierce & The Dead definitely have stakes in that camp, but in encompassing so much more, they tie themselves tighter to its legacy by distancing themselves from it. Actions and reactions fold in artful post-rock tendencies and structure, the abrasiveness of metal, an almost punkish fury in Kev Feazey’s wonderfully up-front and fraught bass work … all with a dedication to the melodious, no matter how discordant they sound. With time spent in the hinterlands between the cerebral and the corporeal, The Fierce & The Dead don’t forget a sense of humor, a dose of playfulness in the intricacies; for examples, see the frenetic “Let’s Start a Cult” or the hand-clapping call to arms rock-kicking off the title cut that morphs into something else altogether. The Fierce & The Dead call Spooky Action a collection of ‘songs about cults, quantum physics and absent friends.’ If you don’t find cults, science and your comrades terrifying and absurd in equal measure, and consequently intriguing, then you might actually be the one that’s dead.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue XVI : viii .

. artist : trans/human .
. album : the wider .
. year : 2012 .
. label : blackest rainbow .
. grade : a minus .

TransHuman

The recalcitrantly-titled The Wider (wider than …? should we listen … wider? does humanity aspire … wider?) is a dithering tumult of horror film excerpts (specifically, the screams), terrific and charged ambience, the intent jangle and posture of ceremonial dance, and rotary, droning beats that slough with the molten crawl of slag. The cover photo by Joe Blanchard is also incorrigible and daunting: it seems to be an encaustic wallpaper-peeling hell of primrose and sarcoline, waxy ectoderm melting in strips to reveal the cartouche of Mama Bear and Papa Pig, dressed with ruffed sleeves, a checkered apron and a top hat; some children’s book of unthought grotesquerie. It’s also inked with scribal-sacrosanct vermillion; with red in all the center of things — jelly-donut viscera — splotches, wounds, even an alveolar pupil in the eye of a daisy.

Electronic artists behind the tortuous Wider, Trans/Human, are Adam Denton and Luke Twyman of Audacious Art Experiment. Trans/Human craft an aptly transitional presentation, linear but muddled, confounding the interpretation of sounds as they are shifted from one source to another. The Wider features the screams of humans but transitions to them through remote, and so, blind, cries of animals lowing, cawing, keening. They remind us that humans are animals, and that the frantic noise of fright or pain has a subhuman power to work over the listener, demanding an active attention … and action (though impossible here). The near- (and paradox) insufferability of Wider (for its hearer) — would you condone leaving a human in pain? — yields an emotive desire for interactivity that’s exceptional in this genre, whose worse enemy is what it’s most conducive to: “sit-back-and-re-lax.” The expressive rawness of the screams plays, too, on the imagination, and the listener can imagine virtually anything going on, or not going on … who knows? No one. In a way, horror films do us a kindness by showing the violence or fearful stimulus, disabusing the listener of their need to be afraid for any number of opportunities, sympathetically prepared for anything. Some screams seem more reverent than upset, and a choral atmosphere, droning, and plainsong chant often presides as well — how hard it can be to distinguish between devotion and subjugation.

On a related note, the presentation of [x] as music immediately informs our perception and interpretation … and can make the experience problematic: in the first sequence of screams, slowly clarified as human from the animal babble, a single cymbal touch creates anempathy between the horror screams and the drums usually associated with comedy.

From the first sparsely percussive minutes, Wider ripens into a charged ambience, left off near-soundless negative space to great, hallowed effect, marinating the listener into an abiding patience. Wider is, in some ways, like the vitreous vapor rising in a dark foundry, aglow and wafting an ether of heat.

Wider begins with swaying footsteps and clave clacks, drum claps, a listless military exercise of clanking accouterments, the regimented dance of a prayer dress, ghungroos and dhols belabor in slow motion; a water-tortured metronome; the keen clack of cane; the wild hollow of a ghost dance. Then cries transduce slowly, from the lowing of a cow giving birth, to the hushed choir of caws as the black mass of birds comes to settle … transmuting finally into a human. The agony persists as the thunderous staccato of tribal ambience begins again; it’s chilling as the cries become increasingly coherent, and, from the beastly herd, a man. Then an ambience alert and abuzz, with the purposed roil of a shifty spider’s legs or the spotty turn of cartoon bees from a pooh book. The ambience of captivity — a dank and dripping cell, walls leaching, still air smelling of rusted metal of a prison cell — is again broken by the anempathetic cymbal. It’s the Tony Oxley-worthy jangle from the drum kit — sometimes frivolous but at others masterfully-aired sarcasm — that make uncomfortable evocations sound laudatory or trite. It’s as though there’s been a soundtrack all along….

A windswept oscillation of accumulated sound hurtles, expelling steam in a long gasp, locomotive windows whistling in percussive wind-ups; human screams are buried in the sonic miscellany. Then the motile cry of the screeching train becomes the yawn of an angry cat. Wound through cloughs, a vortex of noise hurtles, consuming and overpowering. The cymbals make even this visceral, tornadogenic pull anempathetic. It’s a hungry demon sort of sound, opened wide on the wide open event horizon and into the sunset; the bright clank chimes of patina-laden metal settles into drum stick soft scrums, leaf rustles of percussion. An abrasive alarm tone begins to drone. A percussive whatsit Oxley jangle smatters. And there’s almost total silence (11:50) but present in its absence, charged with an electrostatic buzz. Then a witch cackle crackle becomes a mechanical toad lowing in its crank substitute, and slag is heaped and fumblingly resorted. Brooding viols and cellos begin to abrade their strings.

Then it’s a whirlpool of Mozarabic chant, the viscous drone of an organ, everything resonating; Wider begins to mobilize with a loud guitar spottily plucking out a few notes; the drum energetically steps up to motoric starts and stops in cool waves, then, faster, into military double-time, with cymbal crashes for syncopation. There’s a hum underneath like a blender wrapped in wool; a comber rotary becomes softer with each dip; a surf punk moment includes a dobro and discharges a upbeat tone, with beeps underneath, a parody of a small band mincing about its takeover of retro kitchen appliances: grinding motors and a reverberant wash of droning. The small revolutionary non-flap of helicopter leaves; now resonant peaks and valleys; wound down, wound back up; settles down into resonance; yowling again like cattle or monks in a guttural chant; their pitch begins to crown at the note where the lawnmower’s finally started. Vacillating vox is chanting and twining in a bizarre pained round, the frame switching static beneath and beginning to segment itself.

There’s clanging and calling over a mid-size rotary hum as fermatas duplicate on the page, droning on hold. Then a switch to a grungy sci-fi crunch, like a mid-century military operation in a cold corridor with olive-green wallpaper. A break is rhythmic, dilapidated jazzy, with a distorted keyboard or honking sax. A theramin begins like a soprano cry but is replaced by a woman’s scream. A foil to the man’s distressed cries near Wider’s beginning, she is not upset at all, but rather deeply formidable, with an almost shamanic power, unmistakable as a woman-lioness … a sort of Clytemnestra moment. More trains screak and organs unstopper; a deep beat evokes a tuba weedwacker; drum kits are banged about conventionally all the while, as though there’s nothing strange and messy about what it’s backing. A bagpipe sound creates an ambient plane underwater; helicopter propeller roulette takes on a bright, almost woodwind-edge.

It’s more of the same as The Wider anneals, rollicking to its 33-minute close in a thinning bubbly barrage, with choral undertones and gristly feedback. It’s gritty and silt-thick, with curtains of gong wiping the slate; side-to-side percussion like an earthquake jitter under the surface. High-pitched screaks, stilted rhythms, crowd noises, and pot-n-pan drum kits evince the breaking wave that later, as an undertow, shifts sands, destabilizing as it strafes below, leaving nothing but a hum and drum stick claps — like a stopwatch. The stagehands clear the set. To close, whistles begin from a human throat, then soften to birds, … then to a lull of crickets: “silence.”

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XIV : viii .

. artist : earthling society .
. album : zodiak .
. year : 2012 .
. label : nasoni .
. grade : a .

zodiak

Mixed live from one day’s work at Blackpool’s Rock Hard Studios and split into two cosmic jams with a short interlude (or intermission) in between, ZodiaK is the seventh outing from psychedelic progenitors and progeny Earthling Society. A big outing. Through their sonics, Earthling Society “take you on a journey through the mind of a drifting serial killer (ZodiaK) to the altar of the Satanic occultist in the ‘Astral Traveller’”… and a few other places if you’re sticking in more than your timid toe. You can take ZodiaK in as two spiral galaxies of a streaming narrative or a set of songs that disregard hard edges and thrive on increasing overlap. Whatever the approach (who knows the mind of a killer?), the time invested provides maximum return.

Because recorded live, there’s a tougher unprocessed sound that never gets in the way of the ebb and flow of the sprawl, just as the sprawl doesn’t get in the way of Earthling Society. Through all the waves of psychedelia, prog and incarnations of space rock, Earthling Society keep the herd focused and driven, careening off a cliff only when intentional. For something so encompassing and absorbing in scope and size, it may seem odd to say that a good share of the glue that holds ZodiaK together is Earthling Society’s moderation. There’s nothing rigid or constrained about ZodiaK, but the fact that it doesn’t implode or dissipate into a formless gas says volumes about Earthling Society’s stewardship. Like any good captain, they lead and explore through ZodiaK’s multiple horizons…nooks, crannies, vistas and vastness reconnoitered equally. ZodiaK unfolds and unrolls like a map of not only where Earthling Society might go, but also a guide to where these voyagers are coming from. There’s Hawkwind-flavored lock-tight drives, progressive leanings that take in watery washes of sound, to the more histrionic edges, straight-up barn-burning space rock and some guitar jams that sound like The Grateful Jefferson may have fast-forwarded from the launchpad. It’s a dizzying display and delivery that distills a black hole cornucopia of fruit as well as itself at certain points.

The title cut goes through as many changes as dynamics, starting out in a dreamy haze that begins to bubble quickly. It doesn’t take long before ZodiaK himself edges the flow further off into a meeting between the rubber and the road as Earthling Society head to one of many apogees. Beginning the coast out in a similar way we came in, Earthling Society ease out naturally into a tastefully charged closing. The short “Silver Phase” picks up the crumbs and rebakes a small portion for you to do the same or check the tank. There’s no finish line, so “The Astral Traveller” is in no hurry as he drifts on a long, languid and syrupy sail that eventually takes on some rapids head on. Earthling Society blossom into full flight (again) for another fiery exit that uses the last minute in the oxygen tank to come full circle. Turn it over and start again because like any good trip, you can’t take it all in the first time around. ZodiaK is a psychedelic E ticket ride in many ways: engaging, engrossing, exciting…but never exhausting, or exhausted.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue XIV : iv .

. artist : vision fortune .
. album : night jukes .
. year : 2013 .
. label : cardinal fuzz .
. grade : b plus .

VisionFortune

Cardinal Fuzz steps back a touch after London’s Vision Fortune recently laid down their debut (Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune) with a limited release 12″ of their earlier cassette, Night Jukes (originally out on Italian Beach Babes label). This is the first I’ve heard Vision Fortune and it’s a hell of a calling card, if you want to call it that. Heavily repetitive and deceptively stripped down in construction, Night Jukes still manages to cover more ground than you might think. And that’s a testament to the duo’s handling of the ingredients, poking and prodding them (here and a bit over there) to create a broader palette than many aiming for the same effect. The repetitious spine that runs through Night Jukes smartly takes cues from more than just a twisted and torqued krautrock bag of beats. Vision Fortune shore it up without weighing it down by adding exotic tangents (“In My Father’s House There Are Mansions”) and otherworldly vocals that veer towards the ritualistic and driving art-punk replay (“Heavy Saddles”). Closer “Black Ocean Glow” is the go-to track if you need instant proof of the diversity they can wring out; dreamy, hazy and methodical, it works a mid-tempo hypno-aura that is sexed up by some smoky horns that not only give the cut its specific aura, but hint at another bag of tricks and digressions. Night Jukes is extremely focused — far beyond its repetition factors — with each track manifesting a distinct flavor and vibe as they hone in on an idea and work it for what it’s worth. To take such a singular tangent and make it kaleidoscopic is nothing new. But others who do that (and do it well) all have their own unmistakable character that can seem baffling to the timid and the impatient. And it’s the very thing that puts those outfits, Vision Fortune included, one rung above. Maybe more.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue XII : v .

. artist : bibio .
. album : ambivalence avenue .
. year : 2009 .
. label : warp .
. grade : a .

Bibio

Some people can’t pick just one way to express themselves. From noir-hop, to traditional mountain music, to lo-fi soul: Bibio does it all. Ambivalence Avenue is obviously made by an aspiring producer with great nocturnal taste and an ear for simple, affecting melody.

Wunderkind Stephen Wilkinson has lectured on music technology, and it shows. All of his songs have a glow to them that is rare in music these days. There is an evocative, space-age undercurrent to already complicated tracks like the well-composed post-rock of “Cry! Baby!” Songs like “Baby” and “Sugarette” would have you believe he was a member of Tortoise and got into hip hop futurism, but he’s pretty far from Chicago: the West Midlands in the UK. The endlessly filled-in beats and dimmer switch atmospherics of many of these songs evoke quite a beautifully dreary image, but a bright future for the project.

Bibio could easily hold the listener’s interest with just his instrumentals, but he also grabs you with his accomplished, wispy vocals that grace a good half of the tracks. While many mid-album tracks are sparse acousticisms with CSNY harmonies, he pushes himself to explore all of his musical interests: dusty drums, deep bass, and minor-key funk guitar cover the ecstatic loverman come-on of “Jealous of Roses.” “Roses” is pure bedroom-disco bliss on the heels of the carefree title track’s otherworldly forest jam, uplifting choruses, and lively drum patterns.

Stephen Wilkinson likes quite a few disparate genres and has the ability to compartmentalize and convincingly present all of them. He shies away from the usual electronic artist pitfalls and navigates his way to extremely nerdy paydirt by attempting to chase his muse across several and less popular genres. His songs may appear as tributes to some, but those spectators aren’t looking deep enough. And regardless of your hangups, Bibio’s modern touch — as an expert craftsman, accomplished guitar player, and thoughtful composer — will draw you in.

by Ryan Myers

. issue XI : vi .

. artist : eat lights become lights .
. album : modular living .
. year : 2013 .
. label : the great pop supplement / rocket girl .
. grade : a plus .

ModularLiving

Eat Lights Become Lights, for very good—and obvious—reasons, are placed into the Krautrock gene pool … deep in the pool, from the golden era right through the continuum to the modern age. Though Krautrock’s tentacles flex through infinitely more than motorik beats, Eat Lights Become Lights carry the baton for the DNA strand most are familiar with. This isn’t Ash Ra Tempel or Can, but it’s far more than a simple Kraftwerk or Neu! reheat to say the very least. If you’re familiar with the sleek chrome-plated pulse Eat Lights Become Lights generate, then you know that, like their ‘genre,’ they digest and manifest far more than a return trip down the Autobahn. Now, that may sound moot when Eat Lights Become Lights’ new outing, Modular Living, is their most straightforward Krautrock album yet, an almost classicist document of pit stops, but, setting themselves apart from herd as they always do, those pit stops or points of reference become deep, meaningful touchstones not only for Eat Lights Become Lights but for the listener as well. For as traditional as the framework is, there’s an ultra-modern bounty of diverse meat that is fresh from the butcher. There’s no mistaking that this is a now record that encompasses many junctures along the way over a singular, frozen point. As with their other records, Modular Living teems with a retro-futuristic bliss that makes it timeless by straddling the ‘then,’ but also defining the ‘now’ as a vision of possibilities of what could have been had things progressed down a slightly different detour. On Modular Living, Eat Lights Become Lights sound more sinewy, further elongated for maximum chewing pleasure.

The title cut makes this evident as soon as the wheels hit the road. A tempered mid-tempo blend of surges, “Modular Living” sets the tone for the rest of the album while also raising the bar. “MOD-ULO-510” starts like some cyber-organic denizen of Eat Lights Become Lights’ nostalgic future waking up and warming up the consciousness before quickly snapping into full production mode. Around that assembly line pulse, there’s a whole other world spinning and generating atmosphere. Methodical and purposeful, it casts a small shadow over the day, lending a depth to the throb that many others overlook and consequently don’t achieve. The attention and respect paid to small details like that are what give much of Modular Living its dynamics, but by no means all. The metropolitan heartbeat shimmer of “13th Looking South …” gets an added boost and fuller character with droning facets and a rising/falling call and response deep whale call that threads through an already great song. The dream-like lushness of “Rowley Way Overlook” serves as a reminder that all the motoring you’ve done has actually gotten you somewhere. Sparkling like a multi-colored field of crystalline flowers with some stellar, though small, vocal accents, “Rowley Way Overlook” is far more than a simple resting place to take stock in the trip: it’s a pull over to revel in another side of Eat Lights Become Lights that’s as impeccably put together and rewarding as the surges and throbs. “Los Feliz to Griffith” works much the same way, kicking off the flip side by gently waking you from the slumber-gaze induced by “Rowley Way Overlook.” The gentle tug of “Chiba Prefecture” picks up the pace slightly, but seems more concerned with making sure you don’t take in the passing vistas outside the window as a hollow speed blur. The ebb and flow sparkle and thrive in a great display of moderation—and the results this approach can yield in the right song and in the right hands. Up a notch, next, with “Electromagnetika,” as you circle back into the city on the neon subway, gaining speed and drive the closer you get to the heart of the metropolis. Sonic flourishes and colors dance at the edge of your vision and ears, teeming with the stories and beats of countless other passengers rocketing by. We came in easy on the second leg of the trek, and Eat Lights Become Lights eases us out in similar fashion with “Habitat ’67” (also available on Deep Distance as a 12″ split with, Twelve providing a fantastic flip side). A blissed out rising and falling stream of inseparable layers, “Habitat ’67” rounds out your Modular Living situation with a sheen of sophistication that closes the record with the bar raised again, functioning as both closure and starting point for another voyage.

Trips taken so far and the track record of Eat Lights Become Lights guarantee the next motoring will be just as fulfilling in its promise. Eat Lights Become Lights continue embracing, embellishing and exploiting a vehicle that keeps pursing perfection even as the motor never stalls or falters. Here’s selfishly hoping it takes them a long time and many more road trips to get there. Modular Living is out on CD via Rocket Girl and on vinyl via The Great Pop Supplement.

by Mr. Atavist